Last week my 6 year old son and I went for a bike ride together. He was keen to go on an adventure and so I suggested a route that took us to an area that I knew would have lots of sloes that we could pick and as a reward for helping me we might stop for a coffee/babycino on the way home. The blackthorn bushes were full of fruit and we found the perfect one beside the track we were cycling on with a fallen tree trunk underneath so we could both reach lots of sloes without having to move too much.
Each year we make a demi-john of sloe gin and we have just decanted last year’s batch ready for this year’s harvest to take over. There are questions about whether to wait for the first frost before picking but I am always worried someone else will get to the sloes before I do and as they were soft we got picking. I give mine a quick stint in the freezer so we don’t have to prick each one individually and it also makes it less messy to get them into the demi-john.
I then add sugar and gin and leave it for a year – easy! Over the years we have found that we prefer slightly less sugar than some recipes suggest so tend to use half the weight of sloes and then add around 1 1/2 litres of gin.
Our sloe gin normally gets its first proper tasting at our annual family get together which happens in November. My brothers also bring theirs and we compare them all many times over! Occasionally someone also brings a slightly different take on the classic sloe gin – blackberry brandy was a particularly good one. So when I saw crab apples for sale in our local supermarket I bought 1kg and some vodka to make some crab apple schnapps to take to the family liquor tasting.
I used the same quantities as for the sloe gin – 1kg fruit, 500g sugar, 1 1/2 litres vodka – but will probably not leave it as long. The recipe I read suggested 10 weeks with the fruit followed by 3 months in a dark, cool place before drinking but we may have to taste it as we go! It already smells pretty good after just one week! But for now they have taken their place on top of the fridge to allow all the flavours to steep into the alcohol ready for next year.